21-Jun, 20:44

13:34, February 19 309 0

2018-02-19 13:34:02
What’s Inside Johnny Weir’s Hotel Room at the Olympics

GANGNEUNG, South Korea — Exquisite pieces of jewelry are arranged like someone’s prized Olympic pin collection on the counter. More than two dozen pairs of shoes, many of them as sparkly as Dorothy’s red slippers, are lined up like foot soldiers on the floor. Along a wall next to the queen-size bed is a garment rack groaning with beautiful clothes.

A visit to Johnny Weir’s hotel room reveals sartorial flourishes that would make Liberace covetous. It also provides answers to some of the questions that millions of American television viewers have pondered in prime time each night of the Pyeongchang Games, where Weir and his NBC broadcast partner for figure skating, Tara Lipinski, have all but upstaged the skaters themselves with their very-big-night-out attire.

For starters: Weir traveled to South Korea with 13 designer suitcases filled with his finest. Lipinski brought only nine.

Never mind the athletes they are covering; by virtue of the unadorned honesty of their commentary and the haute-couture majesty of their wardrobes, Weir and Lipinski have become must-see TV.

Weir, 33, has his hair swept into a bird nest — two women help him style his hair and do his makeup each day — and wears sequined blazers over layers of leather and lace. Lipinski, 35, wears small dresses and high heels, which she can get in and out of in less time than it took her to complete a short program. On Friday, she strolled into Weir’s room for an interview wearing jeans and a casual top.

Upon finding out she and Weir would be videotaped, she slipped out of the room. She returned 1 minute 50 seconds later wearing a fire-engine-red mini dress and heels.

“I make fun of how small her dresses are,” Weir said. “That’s why she has less luggage than me, because her dresses are napkin-sized.”

Some globe-trotters collect decorative spoons or native art as keepsakes. Not Weir, who arrived here with suitcases (13!) filled with mementos of his uncharted journey from a self-described country bumpkin to a global personality.

“My clothing are my treasures, my Picassos,” Weir said. “I didn’t grow up with much, so when I purchase something or own something, it’s more about the experiences that I had to be able to afford that thing, the memory of where I bought it.”

He added: “Everything has meaning. It isn’t just a sparkly jacket.”

(Another answer to TV viewers’ questions: Weir wears designer clothes but also shops at discount outlets like TJ Maxx.)

It was the second Friday of the Olympics, and Weir and Lipinski had just returned to their spalike Richard Meier-designed hotel after a 10-hour work day that was still a few hours from being a wrap.

They had just called the men’s short program, the same event where at the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy, Weir emerged as the second-best skater on his way to a fifth-place finish. With a little more than an hour before their presence was required at a production meeting, they huddled to coordinate their next-day’s outfits.

Six months before these Games, their second as a broadcasting team, Lipinski and Weir began talking about their Olympic wardrobes. They receive some clothing on loan from designers (one accessory in Weir’s collection was last worn by Pink), but still rely mostly on outfits they pull from their closets.

“We’re pretty on point,” Weir said.

They trust each other’s tastes and are quick to come to each other’s rescue when a fashion disaster strikes. Earlier in the week, Lipinski experienced an on-air wardrobe malfunction when the lining of her dress sneaked up her leg. During a break, a few people formed a circle around Lipinski, who allowed Weir to stick his hand under her dress and pull the lining down as if it were a window blind. “Only Johnny can fix it,” Lipinski said with a laugh.

During broadcasts, a steady stream of spectators sidestep the solicitous ushers and climb the stairs to where Weir, Lipinski and their other broadcasting partner, Terry Gannon, are perched and surreptitiously snap their photographs. On their way in and out of the Gangneung Ice Arena, they are surrounded by selfie seekers.

They have been in the public eye more than half their lives, and they take the attention in stride.

“I grew up lower-middle class in the middle of Pennsylvania,” said Weir, who is from Coatesville and is now based in Philadelphia.

“My parents always talked about the importance of being who you are and if you are different, celebrating that and being as special as you can be,” Weir said, adding, “So when choosing the things I wear or the things I say, it really does come from the heart because that’s all I know. I don’t know how to create an image. I don’t know how to be premeditated.”

They bring to their presentation and their performance the same meticulousness and drive that fueled their success as athletes. Their workday starts before sunrise and usually doesn’t end until after dark, which leaves them little time to drink in the glorious views from their adjoining rooms at the resort hotel, which overlooks the East Sea, Gyeongpo Lake and the Taebaek Mountains.

Weir owns an impressive collection of brooches, and yet neither he nor Lipinski has traded a single Olympic pin. As Weir noted, who are they going to barter with, each other? “We’re more likely to trade earrings,” he said.

And nine days into these Games, they hadn’t made it to the mountains where many of the events are being held, although they came prepared, packing warm boots and clothing that is ski-lodge chic just in case.

“We’ve been to a lodge that looks like a ski area,” Weir said.

They see a lot of each other, and that suits them fine. On Friday, they spent several minutes fingering through each other’s wardrobe as they tried to settle on outfits for the men’s long program. Lipinski started with Weir’s shoes. She pointed to the diamond-encrusted pair he wore last year to her wedding to the sports producer Todd Kapostasy, in which he served as brides-man.

“Johnny had to stand out,” Lipinski said, “so these are customized shoes that I got for him.”

At the end of an 18-hour workday, Weir returns to his room where, surrounded by the blazers he discovered while skating in Paris, the shoes he stumbled on in Japan, the leather pants he was thrilled to find in Italy and all his other beautiful couture comforts, he can put his wardrobe decisions to rest. Weir, whose every waking hour is spent obsessing over form and fashion, always wears the same thing to bed.

“I find myself feeling more sexy and comfortable if I’m in the nude for sleeping,” he said.